A defective herbal heat therapy pillow filled the hallways of Centennial Hall with smoke March 13, forcing an evacuation and the Pennington Road fire department to respond.
The student said she received the “heat pack” as a gift. She put the pillow in the microwave to warm for 20 seconds, and it began to smoke. She then put the pillow by the window to cool down.
The pillow was obviously defective so she threw it away in the trash room. The pillow was warmed by something in the trash and it starting smoking again.
Ray Nesci, professional services specialist for Campus Police, said the fire was reported at 8:35 p.m. and was contained within a trashcan on the second floor. He said he was not sure how many students were in Centennial Hall when the fire occurred.
“An apparent attempt to extinguish the fire had already been made, as there was water inside the container and only smoke coming from the contents,” Nesci said. “The fire was completely extinguished by a Campus Police officer in less than five minutes.”
Sonia Reso, freshman sociology major, said that she couldn’t even see because there was so much smoke. There was never a fire, she said, just a lot of smoke.
“Someone put water on it and it just made the pillow smoke even more,” she said.
As students returned from Spring Break at the time of evacuation, they were unable to move back into their rooms because the fire department was there.
“The smell was very strong for about a half an hour before the alarm actually started going off but they got everyone out and got it under control pretty quickly,” Nicole Gallagher, sophomore communication studies major, said.
Julie Harow, Assistant Residence Director (ARD) for Centennial Hall was unable to comment on the situation.
According to ultimatewatermassage.com, herbal pillows offer pain relief in the form of heat. They contain flaxseed and natural aromatherapy. They can be kept cold to stop swelling or they can be placed in the microwave to be used in place of a heating pad to soothe sore muscles.
The pillows can be used to relieve anything from neck cramps to menstrual pains. The aromatherapy can be used for stress relief as well, and many of the pillows retain their heat for almost 45 minutes.
The pillows can usually be found at a cart in the mall or at a homeopathic and natural remedies store. The pillows that contain flaxseed are less likely to produce smoke and have an odor.